Steve Reich and Manfred EicherMy second review for the November Music festival this year, as published in Dutch on the Concertzender Weblog.

 

 

The 20th edition of November Music: Slagwerk Den Haag, Wishful Singing and the Asko|Schönberg ensemble played ‘Music for 18 Musicians’ by Steve Reich. Newly played composed music. “In the same setup like we played it with Reich.” was Wim Vos’ answer to the question whether the arrangement of the instruments was also prescribed. A convention within contemporary music by contemporary musicians?

 

No, the true conventions were predisposed within my own expectations. As the proud owner of the studio recording played by Steve Reich and Musicians, released by ECM in 1978, I know the masterpiece through and through. At least that’s what I thought. Also I’ve been know to preach that music isn’t supposed to be recorded. And that recordings are only good for three things: preservation, memory and enticement. Enticement is what brought me to this performance. Perhaps I would’ve never come to the Verkadefabriek if I’d never heard the piece.

 

Anyway, I was there, but with more expectations than I initially wanted to admit. Like being curious whether the ‘seventies zeitgeist’, which I projected onto the studio recordings, would make room for a contemporary experience. And if the 18 musicians would perform the piece with the same relentless intensity as Steve Reich and Musicians. With equal concise timing. Actually I finished my description of the evening before even walking into the theatre. In complete disregard of the moment, the music, the musicians and my own experience, opinion and perception of live music.

 

During the actual performance Niels Meliefste made the start of the maraca unforgettable. And with the same apparent ease the maraca was taken over by other musicians. We could read the fun and the deep emotions of the face of cellist Doris Hochscheid. And effortlessly guide our attention from the voices, to the interplay, past the movements and the connection between the musicians. Hopefully just as Reich had intended when he wrote “Audible cues become part of the music and allow the musicians to keep listening.” at the end of his introduction.

 

Experiencing and seeing “Music for 18 Musicians” by Slagwerk Den Haag, Asko|Schönberg and Wishful Singing was a beautiful confrontation with my own prejudices and conventions. I am more than ever convinced that music is not intended to be recorded. Live music is the only music.

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